“A Lamp Onto Oneself”

I’m interested that Gautama the Buddha advocated for mindfulness or “remembrance” associated with four fields as the way to be a lamp onto oneself (no mention of precepts here, although I know it appears elsewhere). He stated that his own practice before and after enlightenment was such remembrance, in conjunction with inhalation or exhalation. The critical piece of his practice, the comprehension of the long inhalation as long, the short inhalation as short, the long exhalation as long, and the short exhalation as short is seldom mentioned when meditation is taught in Soto Buddhist temples. Perhaps that’s because of Dogen’s teacher Tiantong (Rujing), who said that since the breath came from “no place” to the tan-tien, it was neither long nor short.

My own experience teaches me that Dogen’s “pivot of zazen” is the ease and absorption that attend the inclusion of the mind as the sixth sense in the experience of the “where” of consciousness, and that this is related to the Gautamid’s “remembrance” of the long and short of the movement of breath.

To experience the long and short of inhalation and exhalation, I relinquish activity to the point of falling down and realize a hypnogogic detachment with regard to the place of occurrence of consciousness, in spite of the presence of postural behaviour associated with falling down triggered by the amygdala from childhood memories. I have described this as the practice of waking up and falling asleep (it’s easiest to find lying down falling asleep). If I judge a breath long or short in inhalation or exhalation, the practice of waking up and falling asleep is over, and yet the length of the breath in or out can be comprehended without being grasped.

That’s the nature of “mindfulness” and practice in general, it depends on “waking up and falling asleep” and is fundamentally ungraspable.

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